(New York) – The Afghan government is failing to protect tens of thousands of children, some as young as 5, from hazardous conditions in the workplace, in violation of Afghanistan’s labor laws.

Helal, 10, works as a brick maker at a brick kiln outside Kabul. He told Human Rights Watch that the brick mold is heavy and his hands hurt working with wet clay. Helal doesn’t go to school because he has to work. 

© 2016 Bethany Matta/Human Rights Watch

The 31-page report, “‘They Bear All the Pain’: Hazardous Child Labor in Afghanistan,” documents how child workers work dangerous jobs in Afghanistan’s carpet industry; as bonded labor in brick kilns; and as metal workers. They perform tasks that could result in illness, injury, or even death due to hazardous working conditions and poor enforcement of safety and health standards. Many children who work under those conditions combine the burdens of a job with school, or forego education altogether. Working compels many children in Afghanistan to leave school prematurely. Only half of children involved in child labor attend school. 

“Thousands of Afghan children risk their health and safety every day to put food on the family table,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Afghan government needs to do a better job of protecting its children – and the country’s future – by enforcing the law prohibiting dangerous work for children.”

The Afghan government is failing to protect tens of thousands of children, some as young as 5, from hazardous conditions in the workplace, in violation of Afghanistan’s labor laws. 

The government has failed to enforce prohibitions against child labor in hazardous industries, and has stalled in its effort to overhaul its labor law to bring it into line with international standards, Human Rights Watch said. Government institutions responsible for enforcing the law often lack the capacity to inspect workplaces, with the result that children working in prohibited jobs go unnoticed and unprotected.

In 2014, the Afghan government published a list of 19 hazardous occupations prohibited for children. These jobs include carpet weaving, metal work, and brick making. While a lack of resources is an important factor in the persistence of child labor in hazardous industries, the Afghan government has also failed to enforce its labor laws through penalties for violators and a strategy to end exploitative labor conditions.

A brick kiln manager in Kabul told Human Rights Watch: “There are children here, starting from 10 years or 8 years of age to 15 or 16… They wake up at 3 in the morning and work until about evening… They complain of pain, but what can they do? The kids are here to make a living. They bear all the pain to do all the work.”

Extreme poverty often drives Afghan children into hazardous labor. Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Landlessness, illiteracy, high unemployment, and continuing armed conflict in much of the country are among the most important factors contributing to chronic poverty and, as a result, child labor.

A 13-year-old metal worker in Kabul said, “My fingers have been cut from the sharp edges of the metal and slammed by the hammer. My finger has also been caught in the trimming-beading machine. When your nail gets hit by a hammer or caught in the machine, it becomes black and eventually falls off.”

Thousands of Afghan children risk their health and safety every day to put food on the family table. The Afghan government needs to do a better job of protecting its children – and the country’s future – by enforcing the law prohibiting dangerous work for children.

Phelim Kine

Deputy Director, Asia Division

While work that is appropriate to a child’s age and under healthy and safe conditions can be beneficial to the child’s development and allow them to contribute to their family’s basic needs, work that interferes with a child’s education, or is likely to jeopardize their health or safety, is generally considered “child labor” and is prohibited under international law.

Although pilot projects extending community-based schools to reach vulnerable children have been promising, support for these schools is inadequate to the need. Eradicating child labor in Afghanistan is not feasible so long as extreme poverty continues, but the government and its donors can take steps to protect children from the risks associated with working in particularly dangerous or unhealthy conditions.

Those steps include increasing the number of labor inspectors to adequately cover the entire country; giving priority to monitoring hazardous sectors; and offering the Afghan government targeted technical assistance in devising and implementing policies, standards, and regulations against child labor. Both the government and its foreign donors should devote more resources to expanding educational support to all working children.

The government has a legal obligation under international law to take immediate action to eradicate hazardous child labor. Both Afghanistan and its foreign donors should take urgent steps to protect children from the risks associated with working in particularly dangerous or unhealthy conditions.

“When children are of legal age and work in safe conditions, they can help provide vital livelihood support for many Afghan families,” Kine said. “But the Afghan government has an obligation to enforce the laws that protect children in the workplace, and ensure that they neither have to sacrifice their education or safety as the price for supporting their families.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Zama Neff is the executive director of the children's rights division of Human Rights Watch. She also co-chairs the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). Neff has conducted fact-finding investigations and is the author of reports and articles on a range of issues affecting children, including access to education, police violence, refugee protection, the worst forms of child labor, and discrimination against women and girls. She has published on op-ed pages in major international and US publications and speaks regularly to the media. During a sabbatical, she ran a protection monitoring team for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Sri Lanka. Before joining Human Rights Watch in 1999, Neff clerked for a US federal judge, advocated on behalf of immigrants and refugees in the US, and worked with community development and women's organizations in Honduras. She is a graduate of Davidson College and New York University School of Law.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Policemen detain opposition supporters during a protest ahead of President Vladimir Putin's inauguration ceremony, Moscow, Russia May 5, 2018. 

© 2018 Reuters

This afternoon, a court in Moscow sentenced the press secretary of Russia’s leading opposition politician, Alexei Navalny, to 25 days in jail for “repeated violation” of regulations on public rallies, an administrative offense.

The charges against Kira Yarmysh, the press secretary, stem from her social media posts calling on people to join the May 5 country-wide “He’s Not our Tsar” protests, two days before Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for his fourth presidential term.

Yarmysh was arrested on May 22 at the police station where she had rushed to try to secure the release of Ruslan Shaveddinov, one of Navalny’s key campaigners, arrested by police earlier that same day. Police detained Yarmysh and kept her overnight. During that time, a court sentenced Shaveddinov to 30 days of jail time – also related to social media posts about the protests.

Navalny supporters organized around 90 “He’s Not Our Tsar” protests across Russia. In 43 cities, local authorities refused to authorize the rallies. In 17, local authorities told organizers to hold their rallies at remote and inconvenient locations. Ultimately, police detained around 1,600 peaceful protesters, including 158 children, in 27 cities.

In some cases, police officers used excessive force against young protesters. In Saratov, police detained a 12-year-old boy who was peacefully chanting slogans with other protesters. Two plainclothes officials twisted the boy’s hands behind his back and dragged him into a police car. His father, who picked him up from a police station an hour later, was issued a charge sheet for “neglecting parental duties,” for not preventing his son from attending an unauthorized protest. We interviewed a 14-year-old whom police detained at the Moscow protest. He spent over two and half hours locked in a police bus and then several hours at the precinct before his parents – who were also charged with “neglecting parental duties” – could retrieve him.

Among those detained in Moscow was Navalny himself. He’s also currently serving 30 days in jail for “repeated” violations of rallies regulations. All in all, 15 members of Navalny’s team, including Yarmysh, are under short-term arrest on similar charges. Under Russian law, repeat violations of regulations on public rallies could ultimately lead to five years in prison. Given Russia’s flagrant disregard for its international obligations to respect freedom of assembly, one cannot but fear this could be the next step in the government’s increasing crackdown on the opposition.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Firefighters try to extinguish a blaze following a blast at the Pentecost Church Central Surabaya (GPPS), in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia on May 13, 2018.

© 2018 Antara Foto
(Jakarta) – Coordinated suicide bombings of three Christian churches and the police headquarters in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, on May 13-14, 2018, were repugnant acts of violence, Human Rights Watch said today. The attackers intentionally used their own children, who were between the ages of 9 and 18, to either carry and detonate explosives or to accompany their parents carrying out the attacks.

The bombings killed at least 12 people, plus 13 attackers and their children, and wounded at least 50 others. Three families linked to the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, an affiliate of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in Indonesia, carried out the attacks. The Islamic State claimed responsibility, calling each of the bombings a “martyrdom” operation.

“The bombings of Christian churches show the grave risks Indonesia’s religious minorities face every day,” said Andreas Harsono, senior Indonesia researcher. “The horror of these attacks was magnified by the attackers using their own children as suicide bombers.”

The horror of these attacks was magnified by the attackers using their own children as suicide bombers.

Andreas Harsono

Senior Indonesia Researcher

The first attack occurred on the morning of May 13, when the two sons of Puji Kuswati and her husband Dita Oepriarto, ages 16 and 18, rode a shared motorcycle into the compound of the Santa Maria Catholic Church and then detonated concealed explosives, killing two church-goers and injuring six. Shortly after that, Oepriarto detonated explosives that he had concealed in a van that he had driven into the compound of Surabaya’s Pentecostal Central Church, killing a security guard and a pedestrian. Minutes later, Kuswati entered Surabaya’s Indonesian Christian Church with her two daughters, ages 9 and 12. Witnesses say Kuswati detonated explosives concealed on her body, killing one security guard along with herself and her daughters.

The fourth suicide bombing attack occurred 12 hours later on May 14, when a family of five – two parents and three children – rode two motorcycles into the parking lot of the Surabaya police headquarters and detonated explosives concealed on their bodies and on the motorcycles. The blast killed the parents and two of their children and wounded six civilians and four policemen. The attackers’ 8-year-old daughter, who was riding on one of the two motorcycles, survived the blast.

Police reported that a separate explosion on May 13 in a family dwelling in Wonocolo, a suburb of Surabaya, was a “premature” blast by another family plotting an attack on a “undisclosed target” in the city. That blast killed three people – a couple and their eldest son, 17 – and seriously injured two of their three other children.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo immediately flew from Jakarta to Surabaya in the aftermath of the attacks, calling them “the act of cowards, undignified, and barbaric.” Indonesian National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian described the attacks as a reprisal for Indonesia’s prosecution and imprisonment of the Jemaah Ansharut Daulah leadership and said that all three families implicated in the blasts had been friends.

Many Christian churches immediately canceled their Sunday services on May 13. Police also increased security in almost all major churches in big cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya, and Medan. The church attacks were the largest since Christmas Eve 2000, when more than 30 churches in eight cities were bombed simultaneously.

Across Indonesia, religious minorities, including Shia and Ahmadiyah Muslims, several Christian groups, and local religions, have been targets of harassment, intimidation, threats, and increasingly, violence. The Setara Institute, which monitors religious freedom in Indonesia, has documented several hundred cases of violent attacks against religious minorities over the last decade.

The Indonesian authorities should ensure that available assistance goes to the victims of the church attacks and their families. They should also assist the surviving children used by the attackers and investigate the circumstances of their involvement to prevent future attacks. In addressing these incidents, as well as government deliberations over the pending counter-terrorism bill, the Indonesian authorities should fully respect Indonesia’s international human rights obligations.

“The incidents mark the first time in Indonesia that suicide bombers have used children in their attacks,” Harsono said. “Deploying children in such a way is indefensible and deplorable.” 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A woman carries water in Al Fashir, capital of North Darfur, Sudan, September 6, 2016.

© 2016 Reuters

International media has rightly focused on the case of Noura Hussein, a 19-year-old Sudanese woman sentenced to death for killing her husband – whom she’d been forced to marry – as he tried to rape her.

The court which tried Noura apparently had no regard to the fact that her husband had previously raped her violently with the help of his family members, or that she was forced into the marriage by her own family at just 16. Instead, it convicted her of murder and sentenced her to death by hanging after the man’s family opted for death over diya, or compensation. The United Nations and rights groups have appealed for clemency, and #justicefornoura is trending.

This is not the first time Sudan has attracted global condemnation for sentencing a woman to death. In 2014, an eight-month-pregnant woman, Mariam Yahyia Ibrahim, was sentenced to death for the crime of apostasy, for claiming to be Christian, and to 100 lashes for the crime of adultery, for marrying a non-Muslim Southern Sudanese.

Beyond Sudan’s intolerable imposition of the death penalty, both these cases illustrate the country’s discriminatory laws, which also allow children as young as 10 to be forced into marriage. Despite 2015 amendments to the criminal code, judicial authorities don’t recognize marital rape as a crime. The government also enforces discrimination through morality and public order laws, which make dress code violations and other personal choice crimes punishable by humiliation and flogging. In 2016, Human Rights Watch documented how these, in combination with security officials’ abuses, can be used to silence those who challenge authority.

And that’s not all. Sudan’s security forces have also raped civilians in Darfur, sometimes on a mass scale, and in other conflict zones, crimes which may constitute crimes against humanity, and for which nobody has been brought to justice. The United Nations expert on sexual violence in conflict noted following her recent visit to Sudan that there is a deep-seated culture of denial around rape, because it is prohibited under Islam. “No religion or faith, however, is immune from sexual violence,” she said. Sudanese authorities should take note.

In Mariam’s case, the courts eventually overturned the sentence. They should do the same for Noura. All Sudanese women and girls should be free from systemic discrimination and in particular protected from rape while the perpetrators are brought to justice. As one Khartoum-based activist told me, “there are many Nouras.”

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Attacks by the Taliban and other militant groups are having a devastating impact on education in Pakistan.

Last week an improvised explosive device was used to target a girls’ school in Hassokhel, North Waziristan, in northwest Pakistan. Thankfully, no children were injured in the attack, although a boundary wall was damaged. That bombing came just three days after another girls’ school in North Waziristan was attacked, this time in the town of Mir Ali. Residents said that militants have been distributing pamphlets demanding authorities shut down girls’ schools in the area.

Pakistan already faces major challenges to education due to low enrollment rates, gender bias, a lack of trained teachers, and poor physical infrastructure. But Islamist militant violence has further exacerbated these challenges and disrupted the education of hundreds of thousands of children.

Deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on schools and universities, their students, and staff have increased around the world over the past five years, according to a new report by the Global Coalition to Protect Education (GCPEA), which Human Rights Watch co-chairs. GCPEA found that the Pakistan Taliban is behind many of these horrendous attacks on Pakistani schools.

Human Rights Watch has documented government failures to stop or mitigate such attacks. For instance, the Pakistani government does not collect proper data on school attacks, so there is no monitoring to ensure that damaged school buildings are repaired or rebuilt. And perhaps more importantly, there are no systems to help traumatized students and staff who survive school attacks but struggle to cope in the aftermath.

Pakistan should develop a comprehensive policy for protecting all students – but especially girls, who are already disadvantaged from attending school by cultural factors – from being attacked at school.

Pakistan can start by endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, a non-binding agreement that has been adopted by 74 countries who pledge to act to protect students, teachers, and schools from being attacked, and to restore access to education when attacks occur.

Attacks on education not only harm students and families directly affected, but have an incalculable long-term negative effect on Pakistan’s society and economy. The government should do all it can to keep Pakistani children safe at school.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Mourners watch as Kian delos Santos, a 17-year-old student who was shot during anti-drug operations is buried in Caloocan, Metro Manila, Philippines August 26, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

The Philippine Plan of Action to End Violence against Children, formulated by the government’s Council for the Welfare of Children and UNICEF, the United Nations children’s organization, outlines and harmonizes the roles of different agencies to enforce child protection measures. It seeks to “break the cycle” of violence by ensuring access to services, building the capacity of children to protect themselves, improving legislation, and serving as a guide for policymakers and donors.

“It is concerning that violence pervades on children, committed by people they trust,” said Julia Rees of UNICEF Philippines, referring to findings of a study commissioned by the agency that showed most incidents of violence against children occur at home, in schools and in their own communities.

Apart from violence at home, children involved in child labor are often at great risk – especially those in hazardous industries such as small-scale mining. Bullying of LGBT children in schools remains common. Attacks on schools by paramilitary groups invariably harm children and affect their education and well-being. The government’s call to lower the age of criminal responsibility from the current 15 years to 9 threatens to put more children behind bars, where they face heightened risk of abuse.

But the biggest challenge the action plan faces is the Duterte government itself. Its murderous “war on drugs” has brought untold misery to the families of mostly poor urban dwellers. Since the campaign against alleged drug dealers and users started two years ago, more than 12,000 people have perished, according to government data. A senator has put the death toll at more than 20,000. Children have been among those killed by the police and police-backed vigilantes. Many have been targeted, while others have been bystanders in police shootings, what some government officials call “collateral damage.”

In this hyper-violent climate, any campaign to protect children needs to emphasize justice and accountability. The International Criminal Court has already begun a preliminary examination of serious abuses connected with the Philippine drug war. The UN should launch its own independent inquiry. Tackling violence by relatives and acquaintances against children is difficult enough – violence by state officials should not be part of the problem.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

It’s been almost two decades now since governments came together to end the trade in “blood diamonds” that were fuelling several brutal wars in Africa. They set up the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, a system of export and import controls for rough diamonds.

Groups of miners in the diamond fields in Marange in 2006. When the scramble peaked in October 2008, more than 35,000 people, including children and women, were either mining or buying diamonds in Marange.

© 2006 Associated Press

But it’s clearer than ever that the Kimberley Process is not up to the task. The trade in diamonds still gives rise to serious human rights violations.

Take what’s happening right now in the Marange diamond fields, eastern Zimbabwe. Residents living near the diamond fields have suffered forced labor, torture, and other abuses. Just two weeks ago, protests by villagers against the alleged looting of diamond revenue by state-owned companies turned violent. Residents say that security force personnel beat women with batons, fired live ammunition into the air, and fired tear gas canisters—resulting in three children being hospitalized.

Many Marange residents feel harassed by authorities, who have declared the Marange community a “protected area” where any visits by outsiders require special authorization, and have arrested several people caught without an identity document proving their residency in Marange. Private security officers employed by the diamond mining company in Marange, Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company, have also used brute violence to deter local residents from mining diamonds, according to victims. One of the miners described his arrest: “The guards handcuffed me and my colleagues and ordered us to sit down. They set vicious dogs on us which mauled us for about 10-15 minutes as they watched, leaving us severely injured”.

Jewelry Brands Should Come Clean

Jewelry Brands Should Come Clean

You should know what is #BehindTheBling. This Mother's Day tell global jewelry brands to ensure their jewelry is responsibly sourced and address human rights abuses in their supply chains.

The unfortunate reality is that diamonds tainted by abuse from Marange or elsewhere can still reach the global diamond market easily. Both governments and companies in the diamond supply chain are to blame for this.

The Kimberley Process is narrowly focused on curbing the trade of diamonds whose sale benefits armed groups—not abusive governments or their armed forces. So, it is not surprising that the Kimberley Process has authorized exports of Zimbabwean diamonds, although they were – and continue to be - mined under highly abusive conditions.

In addition, governments have failed to create an independent monitoring system to check if the necessary customs controls are in place. Finally, the Kimberley Process only applies to rough diamonds, allowing stones that are fully or partially cut and polished to fall outside the scope of the initiative.

Companies also have a responsibility to not contribute to human rights violations. To do this, they need to have due diligence safeguards in place to identify and respond to human rights risks throughout their supply chain.

Yet, many companies do not live up to these standards. Human Rights Watch recently scrutinized the diamond sourcing practices of 13 leading jewelry and watch brands.

The organization  found that many companies don’t know where their gold and diamonds come from, and don’t do enough to assess human rights risks. In addition, jewelry and watch companies often publish limited information on how they address human rights risks in their supply chains.  

 The Kimberley Process should adopt a wider definition of “conflict diamonds” (to address abuses like those seen in Marange, and not just full-scale war), establish an independent monitoring system, and ensure more rigorous controls. And Jewelry companies, diamond traders, and cutters and polishers need to establish robust human rights due diligence—and require this from their suppliers, too.

 The abuses unfolding in Marange are a huge stain on the diamond industry worldwide. Customers buy diamonds as a symbol of love, not violence, and jewelry companies should act to stamp out suffering.  

Farai Maguwu is the director of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance, Zimbabwe.

Juliane Kippenberg is an associate director for child rights at Human Rights Watch.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Sonia Ossorio of NOW-NYC addresses the crowd at a protest against US laws allowing child marriage. 

© 2016 Susan Landmann

On May 9, Delaware’s governor signed a bill prohibiting marriage before age 18, making it the first US state to ban all child marriage. This is a crucial step toward ending child marriage in the US and around the world.

Child marriage occurs in every region of the world. Globally, 15 million girls under 18 marry each year – one every two seconds. The overwhelming majority of married children are girls, most marrying older men – in some cases much older. Children are often forced or coerced to marry.

What does child marriage mean for girls’ lives? And why does child marriage persist?

Marriage before the age of 18 can cause severe harm, and should be legally prohibited. Married children are more likely to leave school and live in poverty. Research finds significant associations between child marriage and health problems, including risks due to early and closely spaced pregnancies. Girls who marry young are more likely to experience domestic violence.

Child marriage is surprisingly common in the US. Over 167,000 children married in 38 states alone from 2000 to 2010. Most US states set the minimum age at 18. But except for Delaware, all still allow exceptions, most of which are very broad – for example with parental permission, or for pregnancy. In 23 states, children of any age can marry under some circumstances. Countries like Afghanistan, Honduras, and Malawi have tougher child marriage laws than many US states. Several US states – including Florida, New York, Texas, and Virginia – recently narrowed the circumstances under which children can marry, but still permit some child marriages.

Under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, countries around the world, including the US, in 2016 set 2030 as a target year for ending all child marriage. Many countries are reforming their laws and developing plans for achieving this goal.

This is a key moment in a global effort to end child marriage around the world, and influential countries like the US need to work to end child marriage not only abroad but at home as well.

The US needs to catch up.
Girls in the US, and everywhere else, need to be children, not wives.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on schools and universities, their students, and staff have become more widespread over the last five years, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) said in the 2018 edition of its flagship report, released today. 

(New York) – Deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on schools and universities, their students, and staff have become more widespread over the last five years, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) said in the 2018 edition of its flagship report, released today. The 300-page report, Education under Attack 2018, identifies more than 12,700 attacks from 2013 through 2017, harming more than 21,000 students and educators.

Over the last five years, 41 countries each suffered at least five attacks on education, including at least one in each country that was intentional or deadly. This marks a dramatic increase from the 2014 edition of the report, when GCPEA documented 30 countries experiencing this level of attacks on education between 2009-2013.

“Teaching and learning has become increasingly dangerous, with the lives of students, teachers, and academics frequently put at risk,” said Diya Nijhowne, Executive Director of GCPEA. “Schools and universities should be safe and protective spaces, but armed forces and armed groups continue to turn them into sites of intimidation and violence.”

A Syrian child looks into a school classroom damaged during a reported air strike on March 7, 2017, in the opposition-held town of Utaya, near the city of Damascus.

© 2017 Amer Almohibany / AFP / Getty
The report includes profiles of 28 countries that experienced at least 20 attacks on education from 2013 through 2017. GCPEA found that nine countries either suffered more than 1,000 attacks on education, or suffered attacks that harmed more than 1,000 students, teachers, professors, or other education personnel. These include: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Israel/Palestine, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

For instance, more than 1,500 schools and universities in Yemen were damaged or destroyed by airstrikes and fighting, or used for military purposes. GCPEA found reports of at least 650 incidents of attacks on education, or military use of schools, in Syria. In the Philippines, armed parties reportedly harassed or intimidated at least 1,000 students and teachers.  

In 18 of the profiled countries, attacks on education deliberately targeted female students and educators. Some extremist groups bombed girls’ schools or set them on fire, or killed, injured, or threatened female students and teachers. For example, about one-quarter of reported attacks on schools in Afghanistan targeted girls’ schools. Worldwide, armed parties also sexually abused or raped women and girls in or close to schools. In one example, armed militiamen in the DRC reportedly abducted eight girls from a primary school and raped them over the course of three months in 2017.

Schools and universities in 29 countries were used for military purposes between 2013 and 2017, including as bases, barracks, detention centers, or for other military purposes. These military uses increase the risk that affected schools and universities will be attacked by opposing forces, that children will be recruited into armed groups, or that students and educators will be targeted for sexual violence. For instance, a school in Ukraine used by various armed forces and armed groups for storing weapons was hit by artillery fire on six occasions in January and February 2015.

Armed forces and armed groups also recruited child soldiers at schools in 16 of the 28 profiled countries. In one incident in December 2013, some 413 children from schools in the town of Rubkona in South Sudan were forcibly recruited and sent into combat.

Attacks on higher education occurred in 52 countries globally, including all of the profiled countries. The attacks included violent repression of education-related protests that harmed students or education staff, or physical abuse or threats made because of the content of scholarship. Attacks on higher education buildings occurred in 20 profiled countries, including Kenya, where gunmen killed at least 142 students and injured another 79 on April 2, 2015, during an attack on Garissa University College.

“Several trends contributed to the abuses described in the report,” said Amy Kapit, GCPEA Research Director. “These include attacks by extremist armed groups, such as the ‘Islamic State’; the use of aerial bombardment to fight armed groups; and violence against students during protests at school or university.”

Amidst this violence there is an emerging global consensus that schools and universities must be protected as safe spaces in the middle of war. Over one third of UN member states, 74 countries, have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, a political commitment championed by Norway and Argentina.  By  endorsing the Declaration, states commit to take concrete steps to protect education, including by implementing the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. The number of states endorsing the Declaration has doubled in less than three years and GCPEA’s new report calls on all states to join and implement the Declaration as its key recommendation for protecting education in armed conflict.

In addition, Sustainable Development Goal 4, Quality Education, a global commitment to achieving universal and equitable quality education by 2030, includes an indicator measuring Number of attacks on students, personnel and institutions, recognizing the imperative to safeguard education in armed conflict.  The Education under Attack series has been selected as a source for measuring progress towards achieving this indicator.
“Education under Attack 2018 underscores the immense human suffering caused by attacks on education,” Nijhowne said. “By endorsing and implementing the Safe Schools Declaration, including tracking attacks on education to respond more effectively and enable accountability, countries can begin to secure safe education for all.”


The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) includes: co-chairs Human Rights Watch and Save the Children, the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara), the Institute of International Education (IIE), Education Above All Foundation (EAA), and UN agencies. GCPEA is a project of the Tides Center, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

This study is the result of independent research conducted by GCPEA. It is independent of the individual member organizations of the Steering Committee of GCPEA and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Steering Committee member organizations. GCPEA assembled data for its report from UN agencies; non-governmental organizations; government bodies; research organizations; media reports; and information shared by country-level experts and working groups. The study is the fourth in a series. The previous editions of Education under Attack were published in 2007 and 2010 by UNESCO and in 2014 by GCPEA.

Generous support for Education under Attack 2018 has been provided by the Education Above All Foundation, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and an anonymous donor. EAA has been working to prevent attacks on education and partnering with GCPEA since 2011. Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health contributed in-kind research support. The NoVo Foundation has also been a supporter of GCPEA’s work.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on schools and universities, their students, and staff have become more widespread over the last five years, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) said in the 2018 edition of its flagship report, released today. The 300-page report, Education under Attack 2018, identifies more than 12,700 attacks from 2013 through 2017, harming more than 21,000 students and educators

. Over the last five years, 41 countries each suffered at least five attacks on education, including at least one in each country that was intentional or deadly. This marks a dramatic increase from the 2014 edition of the report when GCPEA documented 30 countries experiencing this level of attacks on education between 2009-2013.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

An anti-gay rights activist shows a badge during a flash mob organized by gay rights protesters in St. Petersburg May 17, 2012.

©2012 Reuters/Interpress/Valentia Svistunova

Earlier this week, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal agency responsible for overseeing online and media content, took steps to shutter ParniPlus, a website raising awareness about the exploding HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men.

The shuttering of ParniPlus marks at least the eighth case of outright censorship under Russia’s 2013 federal “gay propaganda” law that effectively prohibits any positive information about “non-traditional sexual relations” from public discussion.

Children-404, an online group that offers psychological support, advice, and a safe community for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children, has repeatedly been censored and subject to attempts by the government to shut the group down since 2013.

“You can easily imagine a young guy somewhere in a Siberian town for which closed sites [such as] ‘Children 404,’ which have been repeatedly subjected to judicial and other pressure, have become invaluable evidence that he is not a monster and should not be afraid,” ParniPlus administrators wrote.

The purported rationale behind Russia’s “gay propaganda” ban is that portraying same-sex relations as socially acceptable supposedly threatens the intellectual, moral, and mental well-being of children. The law has rightly been condemned by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the European Court of Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Council of Europe.

And, ParniPlus leaders point out, their site does more than promote awareness about sexual orientation, gender identity, and human rights; for the past decade, it has “vividly explained about the growing HIV epidemic in Russia every month and tells readers about the need for HIV prevention.”

The head of Moscow’s Federal AIDS Center has called Russia’s HIV epidemic a “national catastrophe,” and prevalence rates among men who have sex with men have increased dramatically in recent years – a trend some leading epidemiologists link closely with the anti-gay propaganda law’s stifling of sexual health information.

Cases like these clearly demonstrate that Russia’s “gay propaganda” law is just a flimsy excuse to discriminate against LGBT people and is abjectly harmful to public health in the process. Factual, positive, and affirming information about sexuality and health is essential for adults and children, including for HIV prevention.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

"Peter," 15, working alongside a teenage girl at an artisanal and small-scale mine in Odahu, Amansie West district, Ghana. 

© 2016 Juliane Kippenberg for Human Rights Watch
Sunday is Mother’s Day in many countries, an opportunity for many to give their mum a piece of jewelry. Jewelers are offering “Mother’s Day Gift Guides” and “Mother’s Day Specials.” Here is Human Rights Watch’s special “gift guide” for Mother’s Day.

Please ask your jeweler three vital questions about the jewelry you consider buying:

  • Where do the gold, diamonds, or other minerals come from? 
  • What has your company done to find out whether there are any human rights abuses in and around the mines where the gold or gems are from?
  • Does your company make the names of your suppliers public?

Jewelry Brands Should Come Clean

Jewelry Brands Should Come Clean

You should know what is #BehindTheBling. This Mother's Day tell global jewelry brands to ensure their jewelry is responsibly sourced and address human rights abuses in their supply chains.

The conditions under which gold and diamonds are mined can be brutal. Human Rights Watch has documented how civilians have suffered in war as armed groups have enriched themselves through mining, how communities have been poisoned by mines emitting toxic chemicals, and how children have been injured and killed mining precious minerals. Children who work in mining often do not go to school and get trapped in poverty.

A few years ago in southern Ghana, I met “Peter,” a frail boy who said he was 15 but looked much younger. He was digging ore out of deep, unsecure pits and processing gold with toxic mercury. He had dropped out of primary school and told me, “I wish I could have stayed in school.”

At Human Rights Watch, we recently scrutinized the sourcing policies of 13 well-known jewelry brands. We found that jewelers often cannot identify where their gold and diamonds originate and rely on the assurances of their suppliers without verifying these claims. In many cases, companies also fail to publish information on their sourcing practices. Several jewelry companies presented certification by the Responsible Jewellery Council, an industry group, as evidence that they were doing well. But that council’s standards are weak and its certification process is not transparent.

However, we also found some good news – for example, Tiffany and Co. traces its gold back to the mine and conducts thorough human rights assessments. And growing number of small jewelers are making efforts to source their gold from small-scale mines where rights are respected.

Jewelry companies should ensure they have traceable, transparent supply chains and are not contributing human rights abuses. A piece of jewelry would be a better Mother’s Day gift if it is responsibly sourced.


Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Millions of viewers will be drawn to Portugal this week for a tradition unlike any other: the Eurovision Song Contest that started more than 50 years ago to help unite Europe after the devastation of World War Two.

Today more than 43 countries join in a dramatic, emotional, occasionally quirky, but never boring competition that still brings Europeans together. The contest is designed to force people to look beyond their own borders – you can’t vote for your own country.

Away from the dance floor, on the floors of parliaments and the United Nations, countries in Europe are also uniting around another effort to protect and rebuild nations from the devastating effects of war. The Safe Schools Declaration is a non-binding agreement that schools should be safe, even during war. Countries agree to work together to prevent schools from being attacked, including by avoiding use for military purposes, and by working with others to rebuild when they are.

In Syria, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and in Europe, Ukraine, among other countries, schools, teachers, and students have been intentionally targeted by armed forces and rebel groups. Over the past five years, 28 countries have experienced a pattern of such attacks, according to a forthcoming report from the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.

The Safe Schools Declaration is far younger than Eurovision, but in the three years since it was launched in Oslo, 74 countries have signed on and many have begun to act on it. This includes 65 percent of Eurovision countries, including the UK, Belgium, France, Norway, and the Netherlands.

If Europe can find common ground in a singing competition, it certainly should be able to rally united to the cause of protecting children’s future. The remaining holdouts in Europe – including Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, and Lithuania – should follow the lead of their neighbors and sign on to the Safe Schools Declaration.



Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Nadim Nuwarah, 17, in Ramallah in 2014. On May 15, 2014, an Israeli border officer fatally shot Nadim in a protest near Ramallah. 

© Siam Nuwarah
May 15 is the fourth anniversary of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Palestinian Nadim Nuwarah by an Israeli border officer at a Nakba day protest near Ramallah.

His family’s quest for justice ended on April 25, when an Israeli court handed down a nine-month prison sentence and 50,000NIS (US$13,950) fine for border police officer Ben Dery, who was caught on camera shooting their child. While protestors had thrown stones at the Israeli security forces, the video evidence, witness statements, and medical records seen by Human Rights Watch and others strongly suggested that soldiers shot Nuwarah from about 60 meters away even though he posed no imminent threat to them, which would make the killing unlawful. Willful killing of civilians in the occupied territory by Israeli security forces is a war crime.

Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe) day commemorates the displacement of Palestinians that accompanied the Israeli state’s founding in 1948.

Along with Nuwarah, Mohammed Salameh, 16, was killed in the same chain of events. Security camera footage emerged showing Nadim and Mohammed at the moments they were shot. Meanwhile, a CNN cameraman was also filming one member of a group of Israeli forces opening fire toward them. Technical experts used this audio-visual data to reconstruct the incident. Nadim’s family found the bullet that killed him in a schoolbook in his backpack, and Israeli ballistics tests identified the gun that fired it.

While Israeli prosecutors charged Dery with manslaughter, they agreed to a plea deal, reducing charges to “causing death through negligence” and inflicting severe bodily harm. Dery claimed he thought he was firing rubber bullets. The nine-month sentence approved by the Israeli court is toward the lower end of the range of sentences imposed for these offenses.

Meanwhile, Israeli prosecutors closed the investigation into Salameh’s death, claiming there was no evidence Israeli gunfire had killed him. His family, unlike Nuwarah’s, had refused an autopsy.

Excessive use of force by security forces has been routine during Israel 50-year occupation. In Gaza, Israeli forces have since March 30 fatally shot 39 Palestinians – including five children and two journalists – and injured thousands during demonstrations near the border fence. Illegal orders have greenlighted firing on demonstrators irrespective of whether this was “strictly unavoidable in order to protect life,” the standard required under international law for intentional use of lethal force in a law enforcement situation.

In fact, a conviction of any kind marks a rare exception to the impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces. However, those who commit war crimes can face criminal prosecutions abroad as a matter of universal jurisdiction or in international judicial forums.

“Once again, our family is reminded of the painful loss of Nadim,” his father, Siam, told Human Rights Watch. “This unjust court verdict shows a state that is unwilling to uphold justice for Palestinians.”


Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am